Archive for March, 2011

My New Bench

Friday, March 25th, 2011

As promised, here is my new bench.  First of all, I am building this one to replace the one I have been swearing at for years.  I built it many years ago.  I started it with good intentions but not a lot of thought.  By the time I got the top made, I had a lot of work to do and hurried up and finished it.  Consequently, the base did not come out very good, but it worked.  I always figure I would fix it someday but you know how that goes.  This new version has been in my head for a long time and I finally had the time and money to get it out.

My first thoughts were to the vises.  I had bought a used Veritas twin screw vise some years ago and put it aside for someday.  For the front vise I decided I wanted a patternmakers vise.  I looked up the Emmert vise but you can’t touch one of those for less than $1,000 unless you get real lucky.  There is a Chinese clone available for a decent price so I took a chance on it.  I got it from Woodcraft.  So, now I have my vises and need to think about the bench.  I know I wanted heavy, solid, maple and have a recessed tool well.  I did a lot of research on line.  I looked at pictures, read reviews and blogs.  I got the basic design and drew it up with Google sketchup.  I wanted to find any problems before I got into it.  I measured a lot because I wanted it to be as big as I could get without being too big.  Finally I have all the details figured out and I can start cutting.

I bought a pile of 8/4 soft maple and started making sawdust.  The top is laminated strips 1 7/8 thick x 3 1/8 wide and about 7 feet long.  I glued them up in two batches,planed them and glued them together.  I ran the whole slab through the sander and had my top.  Next, I got into mounting the vises.  For the patternmakers vise, there is a lot of excavating to do.  You have to route out the underside of the top for all the hardware to fit.  It looks like this:  (click on the images for a bigger view)

For the other vise it’s a little simpler.  After the skirting is on the top, you simply drill a couple of holes and install the hardware.  Here’s a shot of the finished vise.

Veritas twin screw

It works great.  Much better than the old vises I had on my other bench.  For the skirting, I wanted it to wrap around, but i didn’t want any problems with cross grain.  The top is quarter sawn, so I know there wouldn’t be much movement but it still needed room.  I ended up doing something like a breadboard for the ends.  I made a toungue on the end and a groove in the skite board.  I glued the front third and put a bolt in a slotted hole for the back.  I just screwed and glued the corners.  I saw no need for fancy joinery there.  I though a lot about the recess in the back.  I wanted it deep enough to hold things, but not so big I lose things in it.  It could have been a little smaller, but I think it’s fine.


The bottom is some left over white oak I had.

So now I turn my attention to the base.  For a top this heavy, I need a solid base.  I glued up four legs to make 4″ x 4″ posts.  The feet are 4″ x 3″ thick.  Simple mortise and tenon joinery for the whole thing.  I did bolt the legs to the feet in addition to the joinery.  This thing is solid.  I made the feet a little long and offset the legs because the tool recess hangs out in the back.  I put a piece of MDF on the bottom stretchers for a shelf and put some things there.  Eventually, I plan to add a cabinet with drawers.  I’ll get some pictures when I get to that.  The whole thing is finished with my usual oil finish.  About a half gallon in all.  Here are a couple of shots of the finished bench.

Finished Bench

Another Shot









It seems like I finished it just in time because I have a bunch of work coming in and I am looking forward to seeing how it works out.  I’ll let you know.

That’s it for now.  Please feel free to ask any questions you might have.  Visit my website too.  I have some work to do there too.

Til next time let’s all wish for sunny days and dry roads.


More on the chair

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

First of all,  As I write this, the chair is done and being picked up this weekend.    Second, here is a shot of the arms in the forms as promised.

Bending Arms

As you can see, it’s pretty simple.  It takes some work to get them bent and some trial and error to get the bend just right.  There is some spring back and it’s a guess as to how much.  It took a few tries for me to get it right and now I feel the are just right.  I didn’t get any more shots of the work so i will have to describe it without any images.  Sorry bout that.  While the arms sit in the forms, I start on the legs.  They are 2 1/4″ square.  I try to cut them all out of the same piece and this time was able to get them all out of a 25″ long piece.  Square them up, sand them and cut the tenons at the top.  The back legs are angled to accommodate the bend in the arms.  I put facets on the top of the tenons.  It’s little details like this that make the difference.  The rest of the chair is as simple as it looks.  It’s just a matter of getting the design you like and figuring out the dimensions.  I’m not going to give you the dimensions for my chair.  You have to figure out your own details.  E-mail me if you have any questions.  I am happy to share.  As for the back.  You can’t see it, but there are five slats across that hold the back cushion.  They are curved also.  I don’t steam these.  I cut them out of 8/4 pieces.  You have to cut the tenons on them before you cut them out.  It’s a lot easier that way.  You could cut them out first, but it’s a lot harder that way.  Glue them up and pin the tenons and you’re done.  The way the back attaches to the chair is with pins.  They are made out of cherry dowels.  This allows the back to pivot.  At the back of the arms are four holes for pins to hold the back at set angles.  This adds a built in recline feature which adds a lot of comfort to the chair.  Probably the hardest part of the whole process is putting on the arms.  You have to cut four mortises that align with the tenons at the top of the arms.  The way I do it, is mark them out carefully and drill them on the drill press.  Then I use my hand held jig saw to cut the square.  I fine tune the fit with sharp chisels.  It takes a while and is a little fussy, but if you take your time, you’ll get the fit just right.  Don’t try to get them too tight, or the arms can split with seasonal movement.

Now I realize this is greatly compressed and i didn’t get enough pictures to show all the steps.  I hope I inspired some of you to give it a try anyway.  If you break it down into steps, it’s really not that difficult.  By the way, here’s a shot of the finished chair.

Finished Chair

Like I said, feel free to comment with your questions.  I’ll help as much as i can.

Next time I’ll have info on my newest project.  I am finally building the new work bench that’s been in my head for years.  It’s coming out good.